Placidus asked me this morning what the difference was between Craftsman and Arts & Crafts, and Art Deco and Art Nouveau. I didn’t have great answers for him, other than a vague sense that “craftsman” dealt more with architecture and “arts & crafts” with decorative items (furniture, pottery, textiles); the impression that Art Nouveau came first; and the thought that Arts & Crafts focused more on man-made, artisan produced items, while Art Deco had a more industrial focus.
Let’s see how I did, shall we?
Art Nouveau (c. 1890s-1910s): Characterized by natural forms and structures. Known for its use of curved lines. Popularized in the anglophone world by Liberty & Co. department store in London (also important in the Arts & Crafts movement). Some of its ideas were likely derived from William Morris, who was key to the Arts & Crafts movement, particularly his emphasis on natural, less cluttered motifs.
An early artist in the movement was Alphonse Mucha, about whom I’ve previously written about on this blog, and whose work I enjoy immensely. One of my favorite examples of Art Nouveau is Whistler’s Peacock Room, which has been reconstructed and is on view at the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C.:
According to Wikipedia (so take this with a grain of salt, though it feels right to me): “unlike the artisan-oriented Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau artists readily used new materials, machined surfaces, and abstraction in the service of pure design.”
Arts & Crafts (c. 1860s – 1910/30s): I was definitely off as to the relative timing of the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements, which were largely contemporaneous, but I did at least identify the Arts & Crafts emphasis on handmade decor.
According to Wiki, “In the United States, the terms American Craftsman or Craftsman style are often used to denote the style of architecture, interior design, and decorative arts that prevailed between the dominant eras of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, or approximately the period from 1910 to 1925.” So perhaps my timing wasn’t too off.
Arts & Crafts’ founding father was the British artist William Morris, known for, among other things, his Morris chair:
As well as for his textile work:
A prominent American practitioner was Gustav Stickley, primarily a furniture maker, but also founder of The Craftsman, a magazine that more generally promoted the Arts & Crafts/American Craftsman aesthetic.
There were a number of architectural styles associated with the Craftsman movement, including Prairie School and the Bungalow.
Art Deco (c. 1920s-1940s): Finally, we come to Art Deco, which was marked by its movement away from the more natural, organic forms found in Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts toward a more geometric and linear style. In my mind, later, more American, Arts & Crafts designs were distinctly linear as well, moving away from the wildly floral artwork popularized by William Morris.
There are many skyscrapers known for their Art Nouveau style, like the Chrysler Building in New York:
One of my favorite Art Deco skyscrapers, the Telephone Building on New Montgomery Street, was practically across the street from our apartment in San Francisco. I’m sad I never stuck my head inside the lobby because it looks fantastic:
I don’t want to forget to mention the best-known Art Deco landmark in San Francisco.
“30 B4 30″ is my effort to write (and publish) 30 blog posts before my 30th birthday in August. This is Post #1.